Idaho Department of Fish and Game Access Yes! coordinator John Guthrie isn’t a mathematician. But there’s a case to be made for his being a mathematical magician, capable of turning one acre into two.

“That’s a focus of the program,” Guthrie says. “We’re looking for high-quality private land to open for public hunting and fishing and we’re looking for acres that can provide access to many, many more acres.”

Idaho’s Access Yes! Program locates and secures access to private lands for public hunting and fishing. Currently, the program has roughly 381,000 acres of private lands open and created access to an additional 486,000 public acres that would otherwise be inaccessible.

In the Magic Valley region, where Guthrie works, more than 134,000 private acres were enrolled, opening up an additional 283,000 acres of public land.
Big numbers, indeed. But unfortunately, it’s still a sizable reduction in what the program once had to its name. Funding cuts have taken a toll on the Access Yes! program and prompted the agency to look for new and creative ways to rekindle this much-needed and valuable program.

It was that desire that led to Guthrie contacting Outdoor Life’s Open Country program with a simple request: Tell folks about the program and what it means to public access.

Message received. And an award earned.

Idaho’s Access Yes! Program is one of just four honorees of the 2014 Open Country awards. The program will be honored during a presentation at the upcoming SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

Programs like Access Yes! Provide thousands of acres of land for public hunting and fishing access. These are the stories we love to share and they’re at the heart of Open Country. But reality is reality. And the reality is that conservation programs prove to be prime target and easy pickings when state bean-counters look for ways to trim budgets.

But what’s often lost in this number-crunching is a whole set of numbers: The set that shows hunting and fishing added more than $600 million to Idaho’s economy (National Shooting Sports Foundation report). With fewer places to hunt and fish, those dollars could go elsewhere and, suddenly, those budget savings don’t seem quite so frugal.